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Computer music blog » Behind the scenes: Interview with Carita Musical Supervisor
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Explore this exciting new format on my computer-aided music blog: interviews.

In this article from the “Home studio tips and tricks” section, dive straight into the world of the music supervisor profession!

I’m talking to Carita Miller, music supervisor for film, TV and more.

Hi Carita, welcome to this interview format for my Home Studio blog! Could you please introduce yourself?

Pleased to meet you Francis, I’m Carita Miller, currently wearing many hats in the music industry: music supervisor and A&R rep for Groove-Ment Records/Blk Night Music and artist manager, as well as music editor for Beautiful Machine Magazine.

I was assistant to Lisa Coleman, head of Coleman promotion at Arista Records, and interned at one of Detroit’s urban radio stations, WJLB, as producer of Kris Kelley’s lunchtime show.

With a degree in video production from Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts, I am currently attending Berklee College of Music to pursue a degree in music business.

My role as music supervisor has enabled me to bring scenes to life in films such as “He Said She Said”, “First Lady 3”, “Black Strait Blues” and many others…

Motivated and committed to my craft, I’m able to transform images into a creative production that leaves an impact on the audience.

Thank you Carita, let’s get to the heart of the matter.

What is the role of a music supervisor for the uninitiated?

Music Supervisors find and license music for use in TV shows, films, video games, theater productions, and commercials.

They work for clients, usually Showrunners (TV Creators/Producers), Directors, or Movie Producers, and Music Video Directors, to choose just the right music for syncing to TV programs, films, and other visual media.

Sometimes Music Supervisors need to work with District Supervisors, Licensing Representatives, Composers, Songwriters, Lyricists, Producers, and musicians to create new pieces of music to be used for a specific scene.

An important aspect of being a Music Supervisor is handling music clearances
and all the legal aspects of securing song rights, which includes overseeing completion of
mountains of paperwork.

The job requires a full understanding of how music publishing, sync rights, and music licensing work.

Many aspects can be very complicated, so the role of music supervisor requires excellent organizational, communication and negotiation skills.

A good music Supervisors need musical expertise and knowledge, and they also have a sophisticated knowledge of music licensing and synchronization rights.

There are many permissions to be secured, and there may be more than one owner of a copyright.

For example : a record label may own the master rights to the recording while the Composer owns and controls the copyright for the song.

To identify and use the perfect song or composition, not only does it need to be a perfect fit for a scene and create the perfect mood, but it must also be available for licensing and at a cost within the production’s budget.

Music Supervisors oversee the administration of the song placement and may be responsible for tracking and issuing payments to the copyright owners, whether artists, record labels, or Music Publishers.

They may also be responsible for placing the end credits in films and trailers, or even collecting royalty payments.

In musical theatre, a Music Supervisor might manage a team of Music Directors working on several musical productions at the same time.

Supervisors often propose previously recorded songs to the Director or Producer of a movie, TV show, advertisement, video game, or other visual media.

They act as liaison between the creative and business sides of the production.

This means getting the music approved, asking the rights holders permission to use the song, creating master recording and sync licenses, and managing financial details so that it meets the production’s budget requirements.

Typically, artists are given the chance to accept or reject use of their songs and will also have a say in how the song is used.

Music Supervisors also must interact with performing rights organizations (PROs) like ASCAP or BMI in their daily work.

Music Supervisors occupy a powerful position in the music and entertainment business, because getting the right music cues for a show or movie can elevate it to greatness, and having a song placed in a highly successful movie, show, or video game can push a Songwriter or performer into the public eye and help them to achieve fame.

What responsibility does he have for a film's soundtrack?

All of the above applies except when there is a soundtrack involved the music supervisor is also held responsible for overseeing the full release of the soundtrack to digital service providers, promoting the soundtrack album, coordinating with record labels & distribution companies, and maximizing its commercial potential.

How do you capture the musical vision of directors and producers?

To understand what musical idea directors and producers have for a project, it’s important to communicate clearly, listen carefully, and work together.

It helps me better understand and carry out the director and producer’s musical vision for the project when I actively participate in talks, offer options, and make choices based on collective input.

Keys to working together well are clear communication and a shared desire to use music to improve the story of the film.

What are some of the challenges you face as a music supervisor?

An important part of my job as a music supervisor is dealing with a lot of problems that make it hard to choose music for movies and TV shows.

When budgets for music production or licensing are tight, the number of options is limited.

Il est souvent difficile d’acquérir les droits de morceaux de musique célèbres ou de haute qualité, ce qui contraint à faire des compromis lors du processus de sélection.

It’s often not possible to afford to get the rights to famous or high-quality tracks. Because of this limitation, the choosing process often has to make trade-offs.

Also, dealing with different parties’ differing views on music choices is not easy. This includes directors, producers, and me as the music supervisor.

Finding a balance between different artistic visions and personal tastes can take a lot of time and lead to long talks or compromises that could change the final soundtrack.

Getting the rights to music tracks you want is hard and takes a lot of time.

You have to negotiate, get permissions, and deal with copyright holders, which is especially true for popular or highly licensed songs.

Tight project plans make it harder to choose music, get permission to use it, and integrate it.

There isn’t much time for in-depth research or negotiations, and project deadlines are often in danger.

Finding music that perfectly fits the mood, tone, and story of a scene also requires a lot of research and a deep understanding of the project’s details.

When I face these problems, I often use my knowledge, contacts in the field, and creative problem-solving skills. I look into other music choices, negotiate deals, find new artists, and work with composers to make original scores that fit within our budget.

How do you overcome these challenges?

When I face these problems, I often use my knowledge, contacts in the field, and creative problem-solving skills.

I look into other music choices, negotiate deals, find new artists, and work with composers to make original scores that fit within our budget.

These problems can be solved by having open conversations, working together, and using technology to find music and handle rights.

Even though there are problems, my main job is still to choose tunes that make stories and emotions stronger in visual media.

What criteria guide the musical choice of a specific scene in a film?

To find the right music for a movie scene, you have to carefully consider a lot of different factors.

This way, the sound and images will work together perfectly, making for an exciting and powerful movie experience.

First, part of my job as music supervisor is to determine the emotional intensity of the scene: is it tight, happy, sad, suspenseful, or celebratory?

The chosen music must carefully heighten the emotional effect that is wanted.

Developing characters and moving the story forward are bothvery important.

The music should show how the character feels and fit with the story arc of the scene.

When you time the music to the scene’s speed, movements, and dynamics, the beat, tempo, and energy of the music will go well with what you see on the screen, making the whole movie experience better.

It’s important that the genre and style of the music match the mood and tone of the movie, since different genres make people feel different feelings.

Focusing on the words and instruments makes the messages stronger and the emotional impact stronger.

If historical or cultural truth is important, it must be done right. It’s very important to have collaborative conversations with the director that are in line with their goal.

Seamless changes help the audience follow the flow of the story by either keeping things the same or making scenes different on purpose.

Knowing how the audience will react emotionally helps you choose music that will make the scene more powerful.

Paying attention to technical details like scene length and audio cues makes sure that the sound fits in well without overpowering other parts, creating a captivating cinematic unity.

By meticulously assessing these criteria, I can make informed decisions about selecting music that not only suits but elevates the emotional depth and impact of a specific scene within the film.

How do you negotiate music rights, and on what criteria?

There are a lot of steps that need to be taken to make sure that the rights to use music in movies are negotiated fairly and legally. This is an important part of a music supervisor’s job.

It starts with finding the people who own the music rights, like record companies, publishers, composers, or artists, and getting in touch with them to start talks.

A licensing deal starts with making it clear how the music will be used in the movie, including which scenes it will be used in, how long it will be played, what format it will be in, and what countries it will be used in.

When setting a budget for music licensing and discussing fees, many things are taken into account, such as how popular the music is, how long it will be used, how it will be distributed, and how far it will reach.

Key points of negotiation include figuring out what rights are needed, getting the permissions needed for synchronization or mechanical rights, laying out the license terms and areas, and describing any limits on how the rights can be used.

The agreement on giving credit to rights holders in movie credits or advertising materials is in line with what the business expects.

It’s important to write down negotiations and decisions in legally binding contracts.

Setting clear payment terms, like upfront payments or royalties, and ways to report and distribute royalties, if relevant, are very important parts.

Getting signed licensing deals and making sure all the necessary clearances are in place before adding the music to the movie makes the process go smoothly and legally.

Understanding the rights landscape, being open about how film music is used, following copyright laws, communicating clearly, and finding a middle ground that works for everyone are all important parts of successful talks.

What does the search for pre-existing music entail?

The quest for pre-existing music in film production involves a meticulous process of exploration, assessment, and curation* to align music with the creative essence and demands of a project.

In the evaluation between pre-existing tracks and original compositions, various pivotal factors come into play.

Crafting a comprehensive music brief detailing the project’s requisites encompassing mood, tempo, style, and emotional depth for specific scenes or the film as a whole lays the groundwork.

Venturing through diverse music libraries, licensing platforms, and catalogs aids in finding tracks that harmonize with the established criteria.

Filtering searches using keywords, filters, and metadata tags within music databases helps pinpoint tracks that closely resonate with the desired characteristics.

Evaluating rights, licensing fees, and track availability while considering budget constraints and obtainability of permissions is fundamental.

Requesting demo tracks or samples from libraries enables previewing music’s fit within scenes or its narrative complementation.

How do you choose between original compositions and existing tracks?

Original compositions offer tailored, exclusive sounds that perfectly match scenes or heighten storytelling.

Original compositions offer tailored, exclusive sounds that perfectly match scenes or heighten storytelling.

Assessing the project’s budget and resources is crucial; composing original music might entail higher costs for hiring composers, musicians, and recording studios compared to licensing pre-existing tracks.

It’s essential to evaluate whether pre-existing tracks or original compositions better align with scene requirements in emotional tone, pacing, and narrative essence.

At times, a custom composition might adeptly capture the film’s intended mood and subtleties.

Time considerations come into play too; pre-existing tracks may offer a quicker solution, while original compositions require more time for creation, recording, and production.

Additionally, assessing the ease of licensing pre-existing tracks against the complexities of rights negotiations and clearance processes for original compositions is pivotal.

The choice between pre-existing tracks and original compositions hinges on budget, creative vision, required uniqueness, timelines, and the emotional resonance essential for the film or project.

We weigh these considerations judiciously to make informed decisions that best serve the project’s aspirations.

How do you stay on top of trends and developments?

To keep up with changes in the music business and new musical trends, I use a variety of methods that are all meant to keep me learning and immersed in the changing music scene.

My method includes a wide range of listening habits, including new artists, albums, and emerging musical trends.

To do this, I have to keep an eye on famous music charts, search through music streaming services, and read insightful music blogs.

By actively taking part in music industry events, classes, conferences, and seminars, I can make more connections, gain insight into newtrends, and learn from leaders in the field.

I keep in touch with musicians, composers, record labels, publishers, and other people in the business to find out about new releases, rising stars,and changes in the market.

Subscriptions to music-focused magazines, websites, and online publications give me in-depth coverage of changes in the business.

Participating in music- related online groups, forums, and social media helps me learn more by letting me talk about new music, trends, and news in the industry.

Music Supervisors, directors, producers, and songwriters who talk to each other on a regular basis can share their thoughts on how musical styles and tastes are changing.

Tracking soundtracks across different media projects also helps me understand how music is used and spot new trends. Using sync licensing platforms gives me access to a wide range of music from both well-known and up-and-coming artists.

However, it’s important to stay flexible and open to new technologies, production methods, and consumer tastes while navigating through the ever-changing music scene.

What's the worst-case scenario you could face?

Having trouble getting important music tracks for a movie because of limited funds, difficult talks, or refusals from rights holders can have a big effect on the music that was meant to be used, and might even require last-minute replacements that hurt the film’s creative integrity.

If there are legal disputes after the release because the music rights weren’t cleared properly, it could lead to expensive lawsuits, delays in distribution, and damage to the artist’s image.

Even if you try your best, if you don’t agree with the director’s musical vision, it could lead to creative disagreements that affect how well the song fits together and how it makes you feel.

Choosing music that doesn’t connect with people or add to the story can lose people’s interest and hurt the success of the project.

If you spend too much on music licensing or production, it can hurt your funds and the quality of the production as a whole.

Technical problems, such as bad music quality or out of sync video, can make the viewing experience less than ideal.

Missing important music-related goals throws off schedules and delays release and post-production dates.

To avoid these problems, you need to carefully plan, communicate, understand the law, make flexible decisions, work together, and solve problems before they happen.

This will help projects succeed.

Can you give us some tips on how to present your compositions?

I’m asking you this question because a lot of musicians and composers read my blog.

Of course! If you can present your work well to a Music Supervisor, your music is much more likely to be considered for use in movies, TV shows, and other media projects.

If artists and musicians want to attract the attention of a music supervisor, here are a few tips:

  1. Put together a professional resume of your best work. Use high-quality recordings, demos, or snippets to show off your musical style, range, and adaptability.
  2. Diversify your styles, genres, and feelings to show that you can do many things and appeal to a wide audience.
  3. Make your website or music portfolio easy for people to find by adding links that are easy for people to find and using online platforms or cloud-based services for seamless viewing or downloading.
  4. If you’ve had placements or great tracks in movies, commercials, or other media, talk about them to show that you have experience and credibility in the field.
  5. Find out about the Music Supervisor’s past and what they like about projects. Make your work fit their style to show that you know what they want.
  6. To give complete information, include metadata that describes the tempo, mood, instruments used, and license information.
  7. In your first submission, only include your best and most relevant tracks. Keep it short and well-organized to make it easier for reviewers to understand.
  8. When you want to get in touch, send a clear, polite email or message as an introduction. Try not to be too pushy or demanding..
  9. If you don’t hear back right away, you could send a polite follow-up message after a fair amount of time, but don’t send too many or too many messages at once.
  10. Going to events or networking chances in your field can also help you build real relationships with Music Supervisors, which could lead to future collaborations.

Remember that to stand out from other entries, you need a mix of skill, professionalism, a well-thought-out presentation, and persistence.

To be successful in this competitive world, you need to keep improving your skills, be open to new ideas, and take advantage of chances to show your work to the right people.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?

The job of music supervisor gives me a lot of satisfaction, because it allows me to work closely with filmmakers, producers, composers, and artists to make a soundtrack that enhances the story and emotional impact of a film or project.

Being a part of the artistic vision of a production as a whole is naturally satisfying. Using film placements to find and introduce new, talented artists or composers to a bigger audience makes me feel good.

Helping up-and-coming artists and seeing them rise to fame is a truly satisfying experience.

It’s naturally satisfying to see how carefully chosen music can make people feel more emotionally connected to a scene or story.

There’s something magical about music that can make you feel things and add to stories, and I personally enjoy adding to that process.

It feels good to overcome problems like getting the right music for a scene, figuring out complicated legal issues, or acquiring the necessary rights.

Dealing with these problems successfully raises job happiness. It’s satisfying and reassuring to hear that my soundtrack was well accepted by audiences, critics, or other people in my field.

Building long-lasting ties with artists, composers, directors, and other professionals in the field is satisfying.

Making connections in the field and working together on several projects together builds community and a feeling of accomplishment.

Witnessing the finished movie or project with music that fits in perfectly and changes the whole audiovisual experience makes me feel extremely proud for having helped make the project happen.

All of these different parts give me a deep sense of accomplishment and happiness because I play a big part in shaping the emotional resonance and impact of movies and other media through the powerful influence of music.

To conclude this interview with a music supervisor!

Apart from the fact that this article will appeal to those who wish to submit their musical compositions or perhaps become a music supervisor.

A big thank you to music supervisor Carita for this exchange on aspects of her work that we don’t know enough about.

Another thank you for these 10 valuable tips, which I hope you’ll put into practice!
Little pro tip I use to submit titles: Bridge Audio, I wrote an article on this fabulous and constantly evolving tool.

If you need to present your mixed and mastered tracks to a music supervisor, you can request my services:

If you have any questions about this article, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments.

*Curation: A technique for thematically presenting various sources (sites, social media, images, etc.) by identifying and sorting multiple content sources, in order to retain the most interesting.

Musically Francis.

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